A Word for All Seasons
A service celebrating the Catholic Church's 'Year of the Word' and the importance of scripture from the Diocese of Leeds.
2020 is the ‘Year of the Word’ in the Catholic Church in England and Wales – to celebrate, share and live out faith through deeper Scriptural engagement. Dioceses have taken on different projects as part of this initiative, and Sunday Worship this morning comes from the Diocese of Leeds where Priests and Parishioners have been exploring the ‘Word Unlocked’. Fr Michael Hall will lead the service, "A Word for All Seasons", to reflect on the way that "the God who speaks" meets us in all the changing circumstances of our lives, especially significant at a time when many Christians will have been turning to the Bible for comfort over the last few months. We’ll hear passages that have particular emphasis on the importance of the ‘Word’ of God.
Fr Michael Hall is Parish Priest in the West Yorkshire towns of Brighouse and Elland, and the homily will be given by Fr Henry Longbottom – the Diocese of Leeds’ newest priest who ministers in the East Leeds Parish of St John Henry Newman. Worship includes hymns and motets previously recorded in Leeds Cathedral by the Leeds Diocesan Choirs. The producer is Miriam Williamson.
Praise to the Holiest – Choirs of Leeds Cathedral
Sicut cervus (Palestrina) – Choir of Leeds Cathedral.
Laudate Dominum (Perosi) – Children’s Choir Of Leeds Cathedral
O God You Search Me (Farrell) - Choirs of Leeds Cathedral
Sweet Sacrament Divine - Choirs of Leeds Cathedral
Cuncti simus concanentes - Children’s Choir Of Leeds Cathedral
Notre Pere (Durufle) - Choirs of Leeds Cathedra
Sweet Heart of Jesus - Choirs of Leeds Cathedral
Marche Triomphale (Guilmant) – played by Benjamin Saunders
FR MICHAEL:Good morning.I'm standing looking out from the top floor window of the presbytery, my priest’s house in the small West Yorkshire town of Brighouse. As I look at the view of terraced houses and civic buildings mostly made of Yorkshire stone, peppered with the few remaining factory chimneys still standing, it's almost as if I can see the history of my life for the last 35 years. If someone took a giant pair of compasses, and set the point down where I am now, drawing a circle with a three-mile radius, then all of that half-a-lifetime would have been spent within that curve. My pilgrimage as a Christian, first as an Anglican and then as a Catholic Priest, has been shaped by the way God’s word has spoken to me in this place, including during the huge changes our lives have undergone recently.I have a great affection for that archetypal Catholic convert, St John Henry Newman, who wrote the words of our first hymn.That hymn, recorded by Leeds Cathedral Choir, gives praise to the Holiest in the height, whose words and ways are wonderful and sure. Our theme today is "A Word for All Seasons", as we reflect on the way that "the God who speaks" meets us in all the changing circumstances of our lives.
Praise to the Holiest – Choirs of Leeds CathedralCD Favourite Catholic Hymns
Praise to the Holiest in the height,and in the depth be praise:in all his words most wonderful,most sure in all his ways.O loving wisdom of our God!When all was sin and shame,a second Adam to the fightand to the rescue came.O wisest love! that flesh and blood,which did in Adam fail,should strive afresh against the foe,should strive and should prevail;And in the garden secretly,and on the cross on high,should teach his brethren, and inspireto suffer and to die.Praise to the Holiest in the height,and in the depth be praise:in all his words most wonderful,most sure in all his ways.
FR MICHAEL slightly altered collect for the 16th Sunday in OT Show favour, O Lord, to your servants and mercifully increase the gifts of your grace,that, made fervent in, faith, hope and charity,and with constant attention to your Holy Word,they may be ever watchful in keeping your commands.We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
FR MICHAEL: Praise to the Holiest in the Height takes us right back to the very beginning of the Old Testament, with its story of Adam falling into sin and shame. But Newman, following the great teachers of the Church in the Bible and beyond, reinterprets this story with the central message of the New Testament: the life, and particularly the death, of the Second Adam, Jesus Christ, enduring pain and agony as man and for humankind.Our first reading, from the Old Testament, is found in the book of the prophet Isaiah. It speaks of the word of the Lord "going forth". Another part of Isaiah's prophecy will tell us that "God's word going forth accomplishes what it sets out to do." God's Word for All Seasons is something alive and active, not limited or constrained. This is a very relevant thought for us at the moment. The Catholic Church in England and Wales, in partnership with the Bible Society is celebrating the Year of the Word, and we have been challenged to encounter this active Word of God in many new and exciting ways
READER (Isaiah 2:1-3) A reading from the Prophet Isaiah.The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. In days to come the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. Many peoples shall come and say, Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
Sicut cervus Palestrina – Choir of Leeds Cathedral.CD Catholic Collection II
FR MICHAEL: I'm in my study, surrounded with books – some on their shelves and others piled high around my desk, or even on the floor. I'm sure that's something many priests and ministers will relate to. Many of these books are on the Bible. In my early years as an Anglican curate, I would spend days researching and studying to write a 40 minute sermon. My sermons aren't as long now, but study is still an important part of my life, as it was for John Henry Newman. I, like Newman, began my Christian life at the Protestant end of the Church of England. I, too, found that my studies and my pastoral practice led me to a deep appreciation of the Catholic heritage still integral to the life of so many Anglicans. Then, also like him, my personal walk, and particularly my reflection on God’s Word in scripture, led me to the point where I knew that I had to be reconciled with the universal Catholic Church.It always excites me that God’s word in the Old Testament is not just a history of long-dead people in faraway lands smiting one another. It contains timeless expressions of every emotion known to us all today, particularly in the Psalms.There are psalms which express wonder…
READER: O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
FR MICHAEL: Psalms which give voice to deep sadness…READER: By the rivers of Babylon— there we sat down and there we wept.FR MICHAEL: Psalms which ask for forgiveness…READER: Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.FR MICHAEL: And even psalms of vengeance…READER: But God will break you down for ever; he will snatch and tear you from your tent; he will uproot you from the land of the living.FR MICHAEL: And many of the psalms simply express joy and praise of God. Our next piece of music, recorded by Leeds Cathedral Children's Choir, is a setting by Lorenzo Perosi of Psalm 116…READER: Praise the Lord, all you nations! Extol him, all you peoples!For great is his steadfast mercy toward us, and the truth of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD!
Laudate Dominum (Perosi) – Children’s Choir Of Leeds CathedralCD Catholic Collection II
Laudate Dominum, omnes gentes; laudate eum, omnes populi.Quoniam confirmata est super nos misericordia ejus, et veritas Domini manet in aeternum. Amen.
FR MICHAEL: Outside our church, is our garden of remembrance that’s been a place of comfort and solace for many for a number of years. Unfortunately all of our church premises, including those that are outside, have been out of bounds during lockdown. Here there’s what I have always considered a lovely statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom one of our prayers calls "Mother of the Word of God". Mary's hearing of God's word through the Angel, then bearing that Word of God in her womb, marks the beginning of the New Testament. Our Sunday readings in the Catholic Church have a three-year cycle, and this year is the year of St Matthew. He has some wonderful tales of Jesus that are unique to his Gospel, and we hear one now that urges us to listen to the Word of God.
READER: Hearers and doersA Reading from the Gospel of St Matthew.Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!” Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.
FR MICHAEL: In the Diocese of Leeds, we've responded to this ‘Year of the Word’ in many different ways - a number of which - you know just what I'm going to say - were unfortunately brought to a halt by the lockdown. Just one of our online responses is a series of podcasts made by 150 readers of all ages from across the Diocese of Leeds – some of them taking part in our worship today. It’s called "St Matthew's Gospel Unlocked” and it’s been facilitated by our newest priest, whose voice we hear now, Fr Henry Longbottom.
FR HENRY: Listening to the parable of the man who built his house on rock reminds me of a photo we received during another of our lockdown initiatives: “Window on the Word”. This was a simple idea. We invited people in the Diocese to take a photo of what they could see from their window during Lockdown, and then match it with a verse from the Bible. Sam, a Year 8 pupil in Bradford sent us a photo of an old mill clock tower and the accompanying verse was: “The rain fell, the floods came […] but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock”. Weather-beaten and forlorn, Sam’s clock tower was still standing strong. To be honest, I was initially apprehensive about the prospect of inviting a huge range of parishioners and pupils throughout the Diocese to record individual passages on their mobile phones and tablets for our “St Matthew Unlocked” project. I need not have worried.
Readers of all ages, backgrounds and technical abilities responded quickly and enthusiastically. A particularly moving contribution was a video from a member of the “Leeds Catholic Hard of Hearing” group who beautifully communicates Matthew 28 using sign language. Many participants told me how special it felt for them to engage with the Gospel in this way during the Lockdown months. Texts, often familiar, were given fresh perspective and meaning through the process of recording. The final product is a complete mix of voices and accents – certainly not a group of professional actors delivering their lines – but something much more personal allowing us to journey through the wonderful language and narrative of Jesus in a very immediate way. Events of the past months have shaken many of us to our very foundations.
To use the parable’s imagery, waters have risen, storms have raged and rain has lashed down. Our social and economic structures have been tested to their limit. And our spiritual lives too. With the suspension of normal church activities, people of faith have had to tap into reserves which may have ordinarily sat beneath the surface. For many, the Bible has been such a resource.
Stories, parables and verses from Scripture provide stability which gets us through difficult times. They are the rock upon which we build our house. When we feel our foundations are being shaken, we can return to treasured passages from the Bible where we feel the presence of a God Who Speaks to our own particular circumstances.
O God You Search Me - Choirs of Leeds CathedralCD Favourite Catholic Hymns
1 O God, you search me and you know me.All my thoughts lie open to your gaze.When I walk or lie down, you are before me,Ever the maker and keeper of my days.2 You know my resting and my rising.You discern my purpose from afar,And with love everlasting you besiege me:In ev'ry moment of life or death, you are.3 Before a word is on my tongue, Lord,You have known its meaning through and through.You are with me beyond my understanding:God of my present, my past and future too.4 Although your Spirit is upon me,Still I search for shelter from your light.There is nowhere on earth I can escape you:Even the darkness is radiant in your sight.5 For you created me and shaped me,Gave me life within my mother's womb.For the wonder of who I am, I praise you:Safe in your hands, all creation is made new.
FR HENRY: The opening line of the hymn “O God, you search me” is from Psalm 139 and takes me back to a moment when I was sitting on a hillside overlooking the sea, in North Wales. I was on a retreat to help discern whether to pursue a vocation in church ministry. At the time, my head and my heart were travelling in different directions. But meditating on this psalm gave clarity about God’s desires for me at that particular crossroads. “O God you search me and you know me”. I was ready to say yes. In times of difficulty, I’ve gone back to this verse and felt consoled.
Hymns based on Biblical verses and stories can make Scripture even more accessible. Many Catholic hymns build on the intimate relationship Jesus invites us to share with Him at the Last Supper. Jesus did not only leave us His words: He gave us Himself – ‘The’ Word - who became one of us and remains with us through His Real Presence at the Eucharist. One ‘Eucharistic’ hymn I particularly treasure, a sort of “theme tune” which has accompanied my vocational journey, is Sweet Sacrament divine. It’s by Francis Stanfield who wrote it when he was parish priest of Corpus Christi, Maiden Lane in Covent, a church where I was a member of the congregation before I embarked on training for the priesthood. It was in that church that I developed a tremendous love of the Eucharist and the hymn reminds me of this.
Sweet Sacrament Divine - Choirs of Leeds CathedralCD Favourite Catholic Hymns
1 Sweet Sacrament divine,hid in thine earthly home,lo, round thy lowly shrine,with suppliant hearts we come;Jesus, to thee our voice we raisein songs of love and heartfelt praise:sweet Sacrament divine.2 Sweet Sacrament of peace,dear home for every heart,where restless yearnings ceaseand sorrows all depart;there in thine ear all trustfullywe tell our tale of misery:sweet Sacrament of peace.3 Sweet Sacrament of rest,ark from the ocean's roar,within thy shelter blestsoon may we reach the shore;save us, for still the tempest raves,save, lest we sink beneath the waves:sweet Sacrament of rest.4 Sweet Sacrament divine,earth's light and jubilee,in thy far depths doth shinethy Godhead's majesty;sweet light, so shine on us, we pray,that earthly joys may fade away:sweet Sacrament divine.
FR HENRY: I’ve now been ordained a priest for less than 48 hours, and later this morning I shall be celebrating my first public Mass for the parish of St John Henry Newman in East Leeds. Just as with my ordination, social distancing, the absence of congregational singing and no refreshments afterwards, will make it a very different kind of service from what I envisaged 5 months ago. But despite a difference in externals, the substance will be the same: Christ the Word of God shall be made present in the Eucharist. For Catholics, it’s possible to speak of the Mass comprising two “tables”. In the first part, the Church grows in wisdom at the table of God’s Word through scripture readings and preaching.
In the second part, the Church grows in holiness at the table of the Eucharist. The table of the Word lays the foundation for the table of the Eucharist. Perhaps it’s possible to see the recent months as an “elongation” of the table of God’s Word. Whilst not able to attend the Eucharist physically, we’ve been able to reflect more deeply about the biblical foundations of our faith. At the end of my First Mass, we shall recite the Salve Regina (“Hail Holy Queen”), an ancient anthem to Mary. Mary the “Mother of the Word of God” who in the Bible always points us to her blessed Son, Jesus Christ.
Speaking to parishioners on the phone during lockdown, many told me how they often turn to Our Lady in times of isolation using the Rosary: prayers learnt as children, which have remained the bedrock of their spiritual house throughout their lives. And so I’d like to conclude with the beautiful image from St Luke’s Gospel of the Angel Gabriel announcing to Mary “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee” as we listen to a 14th Century Catalonian Pilgrim Song to the Blessed Virgin Mary – from a recording by Leeds Cathedral Children’s Choir.
(Choir - C14th Catalonian Pilgrim Song to the BVM -) Children’s Choir Of Leeds CathedralCD Favourite Catholic Hymns
Cuncti simus concanentes : Ave Maria. Virgo sola existente en affuit angelus,Gabriel est appellatus atque missus celitus
Clara facieque dixit : Ave Maria. Clara facieque dixit : audite karissimi.
En concipies Maria, Ave Maria. En concipies Maria : audite karissimi.Pariesque Filium : Ave Maria. Pariesque Filium : audite karissimi.Vocabis eum Jhesum :
Let us all sing together: Hail Mary.
When the Virgin was alone, lo, an angel appeared, Gabriel was his name and he was sent from Heaven. With a shining face he said: Hail Mary. With a shining face he said (listen my dear ones):
You will conceive, Mary.You will bear a son.You will call him Jesus.
FR MICHAEL:I'm now standing in St Joseph's church. I've been Parish Priest here for getting on for two years, but I first came in here a couple of decades when I was making the very difficult journey towards priesthood in the Catholic Church. So it's a church that echoes with my own prayers in many different seasons of life.Churches aren't the only place you can pray, of course, but it's lovely to stand here where prayers have been offered by parishioners in the seasons of their life for over 150 years.Inspired by the active Word of God, we turn our hearts and our minds to Him.
Heavenly Father, guide and guard those who exercise leadership in the world and in the churches, in schools, hospitals and businesses. Grant them wisdom, calm their fears, bring strength out of weakness. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer Gracious Lord, we ask for those whose lives have been thrown into despair by the illness or loss of loved ones.
May they know the support of friends and family, and find strength and hope to continue. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer Holy God, give wisdom and success to all those who are working to prevent the spread of corona virus and those working on a vaccine. Make straight the paths that will lead us out of our current crisis. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer Now we ask the Mother of the Word of God to pray for us and all those dear to our hearts: Hail Mary full of grace: the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now, and at the hour of our death. Amen.
READER: And we join together in the words of the Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
FR MICHAEL: Bell And so, finally, I am standing in the Sanctuary at St Joseph's, before the altar, before the tabernacle containing the Blessed Sacrament. Most Christian denominations take the Eucharist, the service of the Lord's Supper, very seriously. We all would agree, at the very least, that it brings before us the remembrance of Jesus’ death on the cross for the sake of whole world. It’s a distinctive of Catholic faith in particular to believe that Jesus, the incarnate Word of God, is really present in that Sacrament.
That active Word of God, encountered in Scripture and the life of the Church, serves to draw us ever closer to the heart of our loving Lord.Our final hymn speaks to that loving heart, and asks Jesus to bless us, to touch our hearts, and to teach us how to do his will.So may the active word of God deepen your faith The living word of God inspire your life And the loving Word of God draw you to himself And may Almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit AMEN
Sweet Heart of Jesus Choirs of Leeds Cathedral CD Favourite Catholic Hymns
Sweet Heart of Jesus,Fount of love and mercy,Today we come Thy blessing to implore;Oh touch our hearts,So cold and so ungrateful,And make them, Lord,Thine own for evermore.
Refrain: Sweet heart of Jesus we implore,Oh, make us love Thee more and more.Sweet heart of Jesus, make us know and love thee,Unfold to us the treasures of thy grace;That so our hearts, from things of earth uplifted,May long alone to gaze upon thy face. Sweet heart of Jesus we implore,Oh, make us love Thee more and more.Sweet Heart of Jesus, Make us pure and Gentle And teach us how To do Thy blessed will,To follow close The print of Thy dear footsteps,And when we fall,Sweet Heart, oh love us still.Sweet heart of Jesus we implore,Oh, make us love Thee more and more.Sweet Heart of Jesus,Bless all hearts that love Thee,And may Thine own Heart Ever blessed be.Bless us, dear Lord,And bless the friends we cherish,And keep us true To Mary and to Thee.Sweet heart of Jesus we implore,Oh,make us love Thee more and more.
ORGAN VOLUNTARY: Marche Triomphale (Guilmant) – played by Benjamin Saunders on the Organ of Leeds Cathedral.
R4 PRES ANNO: Sunday Worship from the Diocese of Leeds was led by Fr Michael Hall and the preacher was Fr Henry Longbottom; with music recordings from the Choirs of Leeds Cathedral. The producer was Miriam Williamson.
- Sun 19 Jul 2020 08:10